The other day, my friend was studying for developmental psychology mid-terms and he posed this question: Which one of the developmental theories do you agree with? (tabula rasa, innate goodness or original sin)
After a moment of thought, i replied that i didn't not completely agree with any one of the few, instead i had my own idea of how human development is shaped.
Tabula rasa states that each person is born as a clean slate. An individual is shaped and moulded totally by the environment. This is clearly a view that stands on views of nurture and that nature plays no part in determining the outcome of a person's developmental growth. To a great extent, this theory is true. One cannot argue that in most cases, children born to a well off family, who expose the child to more items and have better education, more often than not will be living succesful lives. However, there are also cases that feature individuals who are oddballs within society. These individuals are best described to be uncharacteristic of people within their surroundings. A person standing strong on this theory might argue that the person was influenced by some other secluded factors of the environment. To be fair, there is this possibility. However, one must know that Piaget has shown that children learn more from the reactions of the people in the environment, the argument seems to have a flaw inside it. If the individual were only influenced by one secluded part of the environment, it would seem that there is some innate force that pushes the individual towards that certain part of the environment. This is why i can't agree with the theory of tabula rasa. It seems strange if that psychopaths can spawn from totally decent parents if one were to only rely on the constructs of this theory.
For the other two theories of innate goodness and original sin, i'd like to group them into one category. The idea here is that both theories lay on the nature side of the argument of human development. Again, there is irrevocable proof for these two theories. I believe original sin is a concept adopted from Christian values of Adam commiting the first sin, then the sin is said to be passed down through generations. So we have all inherited this nature to sin from our forefathers. This can well explain why two completely decent parents can have a psychopath for a child. On the other hand, innate goodness tells us that we all are innately programmed to care for others.
I've been reading a book called Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and his explanation of his theory fits both innate goodness and original sin right on the dot. He has found empirical data that the mere neurological aspects of the human brain stirr compassion and care for other people. However, the dark side to the neurological functions of the brain is that one can choose to turn off to other people's emotions and needs, thus ceasing to care for others and becoming anti-social in nature.
However, as i've been studying and working on my own little research projects, i've found that you can't stand on either side of the nature vs. nurture argument without having pitfalls somewhere along the road. Nature can't explain the moulding of persons by the environment, as shown through twins studies. Nuture can't explain the innate processes that people just seem to have, one good example would be Mother Teresa for her sacrificial kindness. Thus, i've come to adopt my own concept of human development which is some form of innate processing that also allows space for change when the individual meets new experiences.
Let's call it Selective Adaptation for now, which i seem to feel is the best terminology i can think of to describe it. From the nature point of view, i feel that there is some innate processing in everyone. However, this innate process is neither good nor bad but more of a package that determines the person's individualistic needs. The thing about saying a person is good or bad, is that it is totally based on another person's point of view. A person can be good towards his friends and bad towards people he doesn't really mix around with. This way, you can't totally judge him on merely one instance or one person's perception. In my opinion, the individual is merely going according to his or her needs on a situational basis. Thus, i believe there is this innate package that an individual comes with. One good example of this is two parents having a child that has none of the traits of the parents.
The second part of this hypothesis, is the nurture part. As i said, the person selects different experiences that he or she feels is worthy of learning. Of course, there will be experimenting with different types of personalities and abilities, but in general the person will choose to enhance traits that he or she deems are inconsistent with the innate package. Though, i'm not saying the person will indefinitely stick to traits in the innate package. What if in one point in life, the person felt that there was a great need of change? Like after a life-changing experience, one would go through intense trauma and this causes a person to retrospect and probably come out of it a changed person altogether.
I know that this hypothesis of Selective Adaptation seems very sketchy, it's because that i've not really any rigid or complete formulations for it. One of the problems is like whether a person comes out of a life-changing experience a changed person or just as before. Both of these situations happen in reality and probably there is some mechanism involved in it, but we are yet to know how and why. Although it explains and predicts how a person's life may be shaped, but it still cannot bring in much stable predictive power. If i am to complete this theory, i'll be sure to bring in much more empirical evidence and case studies to lay out certain rules for the important turning points in human development.
So, i'm basically saying that nature and nurture don't oppose, but stand on a developmental timeline as they co-exist and combine efforts (like a cognitive dissonance) to shape a person's life. I hope you all enjoyed the read. Comments are very welcome! =)
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